Search for Names, Places and Biographies
Already layed Stumbling Stones
Gertrude Grünfeld (née Horwitz) * 1898
Harburger Rathausstraße 45 (Harburg, Harburg)
Gertrud Grünfeld, née Horwitz, born on 10 Dec. 1898 in Harburg, deported on 25 Mar. 1942 from Mainz to Piaski, murdered
Harburg-Altstadt quarter, Harburger Rathausstrasse 45
Gertrud Horwitz was born three years after the opening of the new Harburg city hall as the child of her Jewish parents Adolf and Johanna Horwitz, née Bachenheimer (see www.stolpersteine-hamburg.de). In connection with the swift industrialization of the city and the associated rapid expansion of the settlement area, what was by then the third urban center of the city in the course of its long history had developed there. Gertrud Horwitz spent her childhood and youth in this place. She was 17 years old when her father died. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery on Schwarzenberg. We do not know anything about her school days and any training she might have received.
After the First World War, Gertrud Horwitz married Arthur Grünfeld, a Jewish leather merchant from Briesen in Brandenburg who was four years her senior. In the First World War, he had fought in the ranks of the imperial army for his German fatherland, and he had been awarded the Iron Cross second class for his service. He had also received the silver Wound Badge.
The young couple found a new home in Flacht near Limburg/Lahn. The children Ernst (on 6 Nov. 1922) and Edith (on 21 Dec. 1929) were also born there. Good neighborly relations existed between Christian and Jewish residents of the village. The Jewish minority was recognized and, like the Christian majority of the local population, was involved toward the political and cultural well-being of the village community. Arthur Grünfeld was a member of the municipal council, and another Jewish villager served as secretary of the village school parents’ council for a long time. Many Christian and Jewish villagers were welcome as guests in the garden of the Grünfeld family, who owned a radio, at any time when major sporting events were broadcast.
This peaceful coexistence ended in 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Reich Chancellor. At that time, 28 Jews still lived in the village, many younger ones had meanwhile moved to one of the surrounding towns in the hope of making a living there. When on 1 Apr. 1933 the Nazis organized a boycott of Jewish shops throughout the Reich, SA men also stood "on guard” in front of Jewish stores in Flacht to prevent customers from entering. Later, signs with the inscription "Jews unwelcome” were attached in all stores and restaurants.
Nevertheless, the NSDAP local group was not satisfied with the behavior of many villagers in this respect. It criticized that some apparently had no problem with "confessing their allegiance to the Führer and at the same time shielding a Jew.”
In 1935, officials and employees of the municipal administration were prohibited from private and business dealings with Jews under threat of their immediate dismissal from service. Jewish applicants were no longer taken into account when awarding public contracts. In addition, "German national comrades” ("Deutsche Volksgenossen”) had to reckon with considerable disadvantages if they continued to deal privately and commercially with Jews.
That year, Arthur Grünfeld was reported to police "for incredibly offensive statements against Gauleiter Streicher” and publicly reprimanded. The public prosecutor’s office later discontinued the subsequent proceedings against him because "Sec. 1 of the Law against Treacherous Attacks on the State and Party ["Gesetz gegen heimtückische Angriffe auf Staat und Partei”]” could not be invoked in the present case.
When Jewish children were no longer allowed to attend the village school, Arthur and Gertrud Grünfeld saw themselves forced to entrust their eight-year-old daughter Edith to the boarding school of the Jewish District School in Bad Nauheim in Apr. 1938. The question of why she left this institution 18 months later has not yet been answered.
On 9 Nov. 1938, Nazi thugs also made their rounds in Flacht. The interiors and furniture of the synagogue were destroyed. The Torah rolls and prayer books were not left unharmed either. They were dragged outside and burned in the street. The male Jewish inhabitants had to spend several days and nights under police supervision in the town hall "for security reasons.”
At the end of the year, only 13 Jews were still registered by the police in Flacht. And they, too, left their familiar home in the following weeks to escape the everyday hostilities. However, where would they flee? Escape routes abroad became fewer and fewer. Many were glad, if at least they managed to find a "roof over their heads” in some larger city. For the four members of the Grünfeld family, Rheinstrasse 79 in Mainz was the last stop before their deportation on 25 Mar. 1942. Their transport led via Darmstadt to Piaski in occupied Poland.
Two days later, the transport reached its destination. In this small Polish town near Lublin, the German occupation authorities had built a first, relatively small, open ghetto in the spring of 1940. Due to the constant influx of Polish Jews expelled from other places, however, the number of occupants increased faster than expected, so that the German occupiers cordoned off the area in Sept. 1940 and fenced it with barbed wire. The living conditions became more and more unbearable. The worst thing was the lack of water supply. The drinking water had to be brought in from other parts of the city.
When it was decided in the spring of 1942 to deport more than 4,000 German Jews to the Piaski Ghetto, this decision meant the death sentence for 3,000 Polish Jews who were shipped from this ghetto to Belzec in Mar. 1942 and were immediately murdered there. German Jews moved into the vacated dwellings. A woman, who later also had to set out on this journey, described this murderous event in a letter to her daughter as follows: "We are still very much under the impression of the last days. It is desolately empty. The 1,500 from Mainz, Worms, and Darmstadt have arrived in the quarters of the departees. They haven’t got a penny of money! They say many died on the way...”
The Piaski Ghetto also soon became a transit station on the way to destruction for the Jews from the Reich territory and from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. On 22 June 1942, they were transported to the Sobibor extermination camp. In Feb. 1943, the Piaski Ghetto was dissolved after the last occupants had begun their journey to death.
For Gertrud, Arthur, Ernst, and Edith Grünfeld, too, Piaski was the last station of their lives. Among the victims of the Nazi genocide of the Jews is also Arthur Grünfeld’s son Hans from his first marriage to Toni Grünfeld, née Arfeld. Their names can be read on the memorial stone that was unveiled in 1963 at the Jewish Cemetery in Flacht. It commemorates the Jewish fellow residents who did not survive the Holocaust and were not buried anywhere.
Stolpersteine also commemorate Gertrud Grünfeld’s mother Johanna Horwitz and her siblings Elfriede, Hugo, and Kurt Horwitz (see www.stolpersteine-hamburg.de).
Translator: Erwin Fink
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.
Stand: June 2020
© Klaus Möller
Quellen: Gedenkbuch. Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland 1933–1945, Bundesarchiv (Hrsg.), Koblenz 2006; Yad Vashem. The Central Database of Shoa Victims´ Names: www.yadvashem.org; Gedenkbuch. Hamburger Jüdische Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, Hamburg 1995; Harburger Opfer des Nationalsozialismus, Bezirksamt Harburg (Hrsg.), Hamburg-Harburg 2002, Alfred Gottwald, Diana Schulle, Die `Judentransporte aus dem Deutschen Reich 1941–1945, Wiesbaden 2005, Harburger Adressbücher; Eberhard Kändler, Gil Hüttenmeister, Der jüdische Friedhof in Harburg, Hamburg 2004; Wilhelm Kuhlmann, Die Juden in Flacht und Niederneisen. Von den Anfängen bis zum Untergang, Flacht und Niederneisen 1999; https://www.holocaust-erinnerungsmal-badnauheim.com, eingesehen am 16.11.2017; http//www.alemannia-judaica.de/flacht_synagoge.de, eingesehen am 17.11.2017; Staatsarchiv Hamburg StaHH 332-5, 12913 Standesämter.